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GSA Issues Tech Innovation Awards

Government agency solutions that improve how citizens interact with the Federal government receive the General Services Administration's top honors.
Services that streamlined the entry of U.S. citizens and foreigners into the country and improved the way students applied for financial aid were among recipients this week of General Services Administration (GSA) awards for innovative uses of technology.

The GSA handed out several awards -- including the IRMCO awards and Citizen Services Awards -- that recognize government agencies for their use technology to improve transparency and engagement with the public.

The Obama administration has mandated a government-wide ramp-up in the use of technology to make government activities more visible to the general public and to improve how people interact with agencies.

A project from the U.S. State Department called the Western Travel Initiative received the 2010 IRMCO Team Award for deploying technology that streamlines the entry of U.S. citizens and foreign visitors into the country, according to the GSA. The team on the project also included employees of the U.S Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Patrol and the GSA itself.

Three agencies each received a 2010 Citizen Services Award for technology solutions that improve the way people interact with the government, according to the GSA.

The Federal Student Aid Information Center of the U.S. Department of Education received one for improving its online application for student financial aid. To improve the system, the center simplified site navigation, shortened the online application, and created a feature to automatically deliver income and tax data directly from the IRS into the application.

The U.S. Department of Commerce also received a Citizen Services Award for a program that helped streamline the transition to digital television for U.S. households that still have analog TVs.

The TV Converter Box Coupon Program, created by the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, allows people to request up to two coupons, worth $40 each, to be used toward the purchase of up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes.

The program reached 34 million households in 19 months, delivering multilingual services and handling millions of inquiries via a Web site and call center.

The GSA gave a third and final Citizen Services Award to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a social media outreach campaign its Administration on Children, Youths and Families implemented.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway used Facebook, YouTube, and live Web chat to help link up and provide information to people concerned about the welfare of children and professionals who work to protect them.

The effort also increased inquires and feedback that the administration received on its Web site and through other channels, according to the GSA.